Closing It Down on the Palisades

August Kleinzahler

1: September

Kettles, rain hats –
the small, unopened bottle of Angostura bitters,
its label stained and faded with the years.

The breeze is doing something in the leaves
it hasn’t been,
not at this hour.
The light, as well.

Early yet for the cicadas,
their gathering rush and ebb.
Too cool,
the sun not high enough.

A cardinal darting among the shadows
in back of the yard,
only at this hour
and again at dusk.

What is it so touching
about these tiny episodes of colour
amidst the greenery and shadows,
now and at day’s end,

that puts to rout all other sentiment?

2: October

The garbage truck compactor is grinding
all 24 volumes of the Encyclopaedia Britannica,
1945 edition, including Index and Atlas,
along with apple skins, bed linen, ashtrays
and all that remains of an ailing begonia.

It is raining, not yet light. The wrens
will have put off their convening on the hemlock.
The distant beach homes of Malibu
come strangely to mind, high on the cliffs
overlooking the Pacific,

and how, now and then, after a terrible storm,
the soil beneath washes away, followed
not long after by the house itself, sliding
then crashing to the rocks below, its side tables,
vanities and clocks licked at

by the gathering foam and, finally, pulled to sea.
Every Saturday they awaken me before dawn,
lights flashing, men shouting, the hydraulic whine
of the compactor as it gnashes away:
desk drawers, yearbooks, sugar bowls.

I shall miss them. I shall miss
the sound of passenger jets overhead
making their descent into Newark in rain,
before dawn, the first arrivals of the day,
with groggy visitors from Frankfurt, Bahrain.

There is hardly anything left to take –
lamps, a chair, bedspring and mattress.
The last roses still abloom out in the yard,
I can’t tell you what kind, pink and white,
the tallest of them six, seven feet high.

Then, that’ll be it till spring.
That’ll be it till spring.